Paul Aronsbach was born on 9 September 1887 in Berlin. He was the youngest son of Moritz Aronsbach, a businessman and cigarette manufacturer, and Ottilie Aronsbach, née Löwinsohn. At the time of his birth, his family lived at Skalitzer Straße 13 in Kreuzberg. Paul Aronsbach had several siblings: his brother Leo Aronsbach was born in 1872; his sisters Henriette, Hedwig and Recha Aronsbach in 1874, 1877 and 1885. Three more siblings, Georg (*1875), Meta (*1883) and Rosa Aronsbach (*1881), died in infancy or early childhood. Paul’s sister Henriette died in 1886 at the age of twelve. No more is known about the Aronsbach children’s family home, childhood, or youth in imperial Berlin, but it is most likely that their parents belonged to Berlin’s Jewish Community.
After completing his schooling, Paul Aronsbach went into trade in Berlin. In the 1920s he worked in the scrap paper trade and in 1921 opened a wholesale scrap paper and cardboard business at Dircksenstraße 51 in Mitte. At that time he lived at Raumerstraße 21. On 16 June 1921 he married Sara Goldemann from Berlin, seven years his junior, with whom he had two children: a daughter, Erika, born in 1924, and a son, Manfred, born in 1936. In 1928 the family moved to Neue Königstraße 55/56 (now Otto-Braun-Straße) and in 1932 to an apartment at Alt-Moabit 105.
Paul’s siblings also lived in Berlin with their families: Paul’s sister Hedwig had married Felix Marcus, a merchant, in 1900 and last lived with him at Bleibtreustraße 7 in Charlottenburg; his brother Leo lived with his wife Flora and daughter Ruth at Raumerstraße 9. His sister Recha married Albert Grätzer, a merchant, in 1922, and lived with him in Prenzlauer Berg. Soon after World War I, in October 1919, Paul’s father Moritz Aronsbach died in Berlin. His widowed mother lived at Raumerstraße 21 until her death in 1935. Unfortunately, no records have survived to tell of the family’s life in Berlin during the Weimar Republic.
The gradual introduction of mechanisms to persecute Jews from 1933 on – or all those considered to be Jews under the Nazi state’s Nuremberg Laws – soon hit Paul Aronsbach and his family. They included numerous measures designed to exclude Jews from society and deprive them of their civil rights. Anti-Semitic riots had already occurred in Berlin during the Weimar Republic; by the early 1930s, open violence had massively increased, with street fights, assembly hall brawls, and SA marches frequently occurring. From 1933 on, the Nazi authorities ensured racism became institutionalized; various decrees and special laws progressively stripped Paul Aronsbach of his rights. A police decree of 1 September 1941 “concerning the identification of Jews” was just one of the many new measures that had drastic repercussions. It meant that Paul could not leave his home without wearing a “yellow star” branding him as Jewish. In 1935 the Aronsbach family moved to Kaiser-Wilhelm-Straße 12 (now Karl-Liebknecht-Straße) and, lastly, in 1940 to Große Präsidentenstraße 8 near the Hackesche Höfe. By the 1940s, at the latest, Paul, Sara and Erika were performing forced labour for various businesses in Berlin. Paul Aronsbach worked for Warnecke & Böhm at Goethestraße 15/16 in Weißensee. A key enterprise in the defence economy, this firm supplied protective coatings for the Nazi armaments industry and at times used over 350 Jewish forced labourers. Sara [Selma] Aronsbach was a forced labourer at Firma Martin Michalski – Uniformbetrieb, based at Große Frankfurter Straße 137. Erika Aronsbach was made to perform forced labour in the munitions factory Deutschen Waffen- und Munitionsfabrik Borsigwalde at Eichborndamm 103–122 in Wittenau.
Having been stripped of their rights, the Aronsbach family then faced deportation. Paul Aronsbach received a deportation notice in autumn 1942 and was interned with his wife Sara and children Erika and Manfred in one of Berlin’s assembly camps. On 19 October 1942, the family of four was deported from Berlin to the Riga ghetto, with the “21st transport to the East”. 55-year-old Paul, his wife, and daughter Erika were labelled “able to work” on the deportation list. It is possible they were selected to perform forced labour in Riga before they were murdered in the ghetto, while part of a work crew, or in a Nazi extermination camp. In any case, none of the four members of the family were among the few survivors of the Riga ghetto.
Only one of Paul’s relatives survived the Nazi regime. His sisters Recha and Hedwig, along with Hedwig’s husband Felix Marcus, were deported to Theresienstadt in September 1942. All three were deported from the ghetto to Auschwitz extermination camp on 16 May 1944 and murdered there. His brother Leo Aronsbach was deported to Theresienstadt with his wife Flora on 17 March 1943. Flora Aronsbach was murdered in Theresienstadt in May 1943. Her 71-year-old husband was deported to Auschwitz extermination camp on 16 May 1944 and murdered there immediately on arrival. Leo’s younger daughter Ruth, her husband Kurt Herzog, and their one-year-old son Gideon were deported from Berlin to Auschwitz on 26 February 1943 and murdered there. Leo’s older daughter Lina, her husband Markus Hirschfeld, and their daughter Käthe were also deported to Auschwitz, on 17 May 1943, and murdered there. Paul’s nephew Frank Alfred Marcus, the 1905-born son of Hedwig and Felix Marcus, was the only member of the family to escape Nazi persecution – in exile in England. He later changed his name to Marschall.